Let’s take a quick moment to look at some of the major powers and regions of Medieval Europe. The game starts out in September of the year 1066, the Norman Invasion of England. Both William the Bastard and Harald of Norway have launched massive forces to claim the crown of England away of Harold of Godwin. England is at a turning point and battleground between 3 cultures, and who wins will have a massive impact on the fate of Northern Europe.
The game ends in 1453, the year that Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks and became their capitol. Renaming this city to Istanbul, the Ottomans made it the seat of their power like the Byzantines did before them. The “city of the worlds desire” is one of the most desirable pieces of property in the region. Control of it gives control of the Black Sea, of the silk road, of the land route for pilgrims to the Holy Land. The Bosphorus will be a highly contested prize as well.
But as I mentioned in the first port, history changes as soon as you hit un-pause. Things may go an entirely different route.
Meet the Holy Roman Empire. Often referred to as the “Final Boss” of Crusader Kings 2, the HRE is a behemoth of German might. Few players can mess with them and come out on top. The only things holding them together is a strong and popular emperor. If he becomes weak? Or hated? The whole empire could dissolve.
France, a land that is vast, rich and powerful. A land and people of strong culture and stronger knights. The only thing stopping them from taking over? Instability. A weak Capetian king without much land combined with strong scheming vassals make France a hotbed of infighting and civil war. Only a strong king with lots of time and luck could turn France around and keep the kingdom together.
The Iberian Peninsula, the main battleground of the faiths. It is starting now that the Catholic kingdoms make their big push to expel the fractured Muslims of the old Umayyad Caliphate. Will the various kingdoms spend more time fighting each other than the enemies of their faith? Will the Reconquista come early? Will the Almoravid Sultanate of Mauretania decide to impose his own order on Hispania?
In Eastern Europe, a different battleground of faiths is taking place. Boleslaw the Bold of Poland is poised to extend his dominion over the lands of the Baltic pagans, the lords of Hungary are desperate to push back against the tribes of the Pecheneg and beyond, while the Orthodox princes of Kiev, Rostov, Novgorod are awaiting the birth of a true Russian king to bring order to the vast land.
While rich, advanced and powerful, the heirs of Rome have few friends and many enemies. The Egyptian Fatimid Caliph has his eyes set on capturing the fertile lands of Greece, while the Seljuk Turks to the east are already pushing into Anatolia and Armenia. To the west and north are the Catholic kings of Europe, and they did not call it the Great Schism for nothing. Only time will tell if they thrive and restore Roman glory or if they wither and crumble under the face of invasion.
The British isles. We’ve talked about England, but while the Saxons have pushed the Celts to the periphery of the islands, they are not gone. The Welsh and Britons of western England are disunited but have a chance to come together. The Dunkeld king of the Scots is challenged with the Saxon influence form the south, the Celtic heritage of the land and the Viking lords surrounding his land, and must somehow make it all work. The Irish are divided and squabbling, no longer united under a High King, but all it takes is a strong dynasty and personality to bring them together and become a force for Celtic vengance.
Scandinavia is a land of change in the era. The old Norse ways are dying out in the face of Christianity, but the lands of Viking heritage are still strong. Norway has vast, harsh lands and a drive for conquest. Sweden has lots of potential to expand into the baltic, into Finland and beyond, but only if it can avoid civil war. Denmark is not large like its neighbours, but it is wealthy. VERY wealthy. The land is heavily developed, and its people are hard, ready for conquest along the Baltic sea, or even as far as the Levant.
The Italian peninsula, the old land of the Roman Empire, now divided between the Holy Roman Empire, Norman invaders in the south, the Mercantile Republics of the coasts, and the Muslims of Sicily. The lords of northern Italy long to break free of the German empire, the Normans look to extend their conquests, the Muslims seek to regain their lost territory on the peninsula, while the republics compete fiercely for the wealth of the Mediterranean.
The Fatimid Caliphate is powerful and wealthy, owning the important lands of Egypt, Syria, Mecca and Jerusalem, but has challenges. Being a major Shia power in predominantly Sunni and Miaphysite lands mean that rebels are a constant worry. The Seljuks in the east will seek to expand into the Levant and Arabia along with their conquests in Anatolia, while the Catholics of Europe are only a Papal bull away from descending on the land in a holy Crusade.
The Seljuk Sultante, the Turkish titan that controls Persia, Mesopotamia, counts the Abbasid Caliph as a vassal, and has vast ambitions of conquest. The Byzantines, the Fatimids, the Eurasian chiefs, perhaps even the hear of Europe itself can come under the power of the Turks. Their main challenge is if they can do it without crumbling under their own weight, or if they can do it before the Mongolian hordes arrive and carve out their own empire in Persia.